One of two Cardinals linebackers mentioned in trade rumors this offseason, Jordan Hicks will join Chandler Jones in being with the team when it begins its season Sunday. The Cardinals gave Hicks permission to seek a trade in May, after drafting Zaven Collins in Round 1 and anointing him the starter alongside Isaiah Simmons. But nothing materialized. GM Steve Keim said Hicks, despite his demotion, will play “a strong role” on this year’s Arizona defense, via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. Citing Simmons’ positional flexibility, Keim said there will be times when Simmons, Collins and Hicks line up together. The Cards have devoted considerable resources to their off-ball linebacker spots, drafting Simmons and Collins in the first round — after taking Haason Reddick in the 2017 first round and slotting him off the ball for most of his run — and signing Hicks to a four-year, $36MM deal in 2019. Hicks accepted a $3MM salary cut in March, and the 32-game Cardinal starter’s workload will certainly be reduced from the 100% and 92% defensive snap rates of the past two seasons.
Here is the latest from the NFC West:
- The Rams still reside near the bottom of the NFL in cap space, but they created some breathing room by restructuring Tyler Higbee‘s deal. The team added $1.65MM in space by moving some of Higbee’s base salary into a signing bonus, Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com tweets. Prior to this move, the franchise held less than $1MM in cap room. Higbee signed a four-year, $31MM extension in 2019. This week’s move dropped his 2021 base salary to just more than $1MM.
- Josh Norman is set to play a 10th NFL season and do so with a fourth team, having signed with the 49ers this week. However, Norman’s camp and the 49ers discussed a deal for months, the veteran cornerback said Friday (via KNBR). Norman, 33, has played with Carolina, Washington and Buffalo. He will join a 49ers team that was already thin at cornerback before listing Emmanuel Moseley as doubtful for Week 1. San Francisco has injury-prone Jason Verrett stationed as its other top outside corner. Norman, who has not returned to a Pro Bowl since his standout 2015 contract year, played 344 defensive snaps with the Bills last season.
- The 49ers will begin their season without one of their assistant coaches. Linebackers coach Johnny Holland recently stepped away from the team due to a battle with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com notes. This is the second time Holland has left the 49ers because of his cancer battle; he did so in 2019 after initially being diagnosed. The fifth-year 49ers assistant began treatment this week. Holland, 56, has been an NFL assistant for more than 20 years, beginning in 1995 with the Packers, for whom he played linebacker in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Holland has worked with Kyle Shanahan dating back to their days as Texans assistants in the 2000s.